Grace for the Harlot
In Rev. 17:5, the term Babylon the Great has a numeric value of 276 x 5. It carries the same numeric value as “the whole world” in Rev. 16:14. This shows the extent of Babylon’s influence and power. In fact, the entire verse carries a numeric value of 276 x 40.
Whenever 276 is built into the text of Scripture, it speaks of the flesh. The number appears only once (Acts 27:37) on the surface of Scripture, but it is often seen hidden in the numeric values of the text itself. Those 276 souls aboard the ship represent all flesh in the stormy history of humanity and its ships of state.
So it is not surprising to see Babylon (or the harlot) associated with 276, because all of her daughters are only specific manifestations of the flesh, all of whom have usurped control over men, governments, religions, and the earth itself.
Rev. 17:5 itself carries a numeric value of 276 x 40, and the number 40 means “trial, probation,” indicating that Babylon’s time, like that of Israel in the wilderness, is temporary. Israel was on probation for 40 years; Babylon has been given a set amount of time in which to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, if indeed that were possible.
The specific term Babylon the Great, with its numeric value of 276 x 5, includes the idea of grace (5). This may suggest that the great harlot, like the Israel harlot in Hosea’s story, will be redeemed in the end when, as God says in Acts 2:17, “I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh” (KJV). In other words, all flesh (people) will be redeemed from the flesh—that is, from their own flesh. The problem of the flesh is that it has been condemned to death (mortality) through Adam’s sin, but yet it desires to rule as if Adam’s sin never happened. It cannot accept the judgment of God, but usurps the Spirit’s leading role.
We know that “the whole world” (276 x 5) in Rev. 16:14 is the same world that Jesus came to save (1 John 2:2) by His grace. Anyone who thinks that the world is too corrupt and too far gone to be saved does not truly understand the overwhelming power of the cross. While the religious world loves to point out the harlotry in their rival religions or denominations, the fact is that the whole world has been ruled by the flesh. No one is exempt.
Whose Will Succeeds?
Most religions set forth their own perceived path toward salvation, based first on the will of man and then upon his ability to follow through on his decision. The Old Covenant takes many forms, but they all have this in common. The New Covenant, however, is based upon grace, depicted by the number 5. Paul illustrates such grace in Rom. 9:10-12 by treating the story of Jacob and Esau as a prophetic allegory, much like he did with Hagar and Sarah in Galatians 4.
10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father, Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”
In other words, it was God’s choice, made by His will alone, which called Jacob and rejected Esau. His choice was made before the children could do either good or bad. Even so, Jacob was a usurper, supplanter, and deceiver even while he was a believer, and this did not fully change until he wrestled with the angel and received a new name, Israel. Israel means “God rules,” and as long as he carried that name, he testified of the sovereignty of God and the fact that he had been chosen by the will of God before he was even born.
We see in this story that God’s will was the single original cause, but afterward God followed through on His choice, working with Jacob until his will conformed to the will of God. Jacob would never have become Israel, nor would his character have ever changed, had it not been for God’s decision to remake him into another vessel. Yes, it involved Jacob’s will, but his will was being shaped by God’s will. When God’s work was complete, the angel redeemed him from all evil (Gen. 48:16), as he himself testified as he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh.
Chosen and Called to Bless
The story of Jacob and Esau establishes an important principle about the character, the will, and the actions of God that few really comprehend. If God can work in this way with Jacob, then what about Esau? And by extension, what about this great harlot? In fact, what about the beast that she rides? Since they, like Esau, were not “chosen,” does this mean that they cannot be saved? Not at all. To be chosen means that one is blessed with the responsibility to dispense God’s blessings to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3; Acts 3:25, 26).
In other words, Jacob was called in order to bless Esau. Isaac was chosen in order to bless Ishmael. The overcomers are called in order to bless the harlot and her scarlet beast—the kingdoms of this world. This point is very important as we study the divine judgment upon Babylon and the beast systems, so that our study is not taken as a call to take up stones against the great harlot or any of her daughters.
Because of all the persecution and destruction that the beast systems have done, our flesh naturally demands retribution and vengeance without purposeful correction and restoration. But Jesus loved harlots, as also did Hosea, and the mind of Christ shows that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). The same world that He will judge will also be restored. The kingdoms that are presently ruled by flesh have been redeemed and will be ruled by Christ (Rev. 11:15).
The first “week” of earth history (7,000 years) is designed to seek out the chosen ones FIRST. God has called them and trained them (as with Jacob) for ministry, and when the full body of overcomers is complete, they will be a living temple, “a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), a temple which Solomon envisioned in his prayer (1 Kings 8:41, 42, 43), but which failed because it was only made of wood and stone. Solomon’s materials, for all their beauty and grandeur, were inferior to the “living stones” that God has been shaping for His final habitation.
Hence, rather than cast stones at the great harlot, we ought to recognize the grace factor inherent in the 276 x 5 that is hidden in the text that identifies her as “Babylon the great.” All flesh is a harlot, and she insists that she is the bride of Christ. She insists that her daughters (children of flesh) are the rightful inheritors of the earth, based upon the original calling given to Adam prior to his sin (Gen. 2:15).
But this is not so. Adam was condemned to death, and all of his household with him. His entire estate (the earth) was sold to make payment on his debt (Matt. 18:24, 25). But Christ came as the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) to undo all that the first Adam had done and to redeem all that had been sold into bondage to pay Adam’s debt. Hence, 1 Cor. 15:22, 23 says,
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order…
Hagar, who allegorically represents the flesh, is thus a “bond woman” (Gal. 4:22) in need of redemption. While it is true that the children of the flesh must be cast out, along with their mother, the underlying purpose for this is to empower Isaac with the birthright, so that he may bless Ishmael and, by extension, all who are in bondage.
The overcomers are not called to cast stones at the great harlot or her scarlet beast. They are called to be a blessing to all families of the earth, to use the birthright according to the mind and will of God. But to do this, the overcomers must be trained by God, even as Jacob was trained, for no one was born an overcomer, even if chosen before birth.
All are born fleshly, even as Jacob, and the path toward becoming Israel can be long and difficult. Fortunately for all of us, God has taken the responsibility to make it happen, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:24,
24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
The New Covenant is God’s promise, or vow, and He has taken the responsibility upon Himself to change our hearts and to transform us from Adamic children into the Sons of God. Adamic children are begotten by the flesh and by the will of man. The Sons of God are begotten by their heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit.
A covenant rules both groups of sons. The Old Covenant rules the fleshly sons, who must fulfill their vow of obedience in the attempt to be saved by the power of their flesh. The New Covenant rules the spiritual sons, and God has made His own vow to change their hearts and turn them into true Israelites by the power of His will.